McEnroe critical of Wimbledon inequality
By Mark Hodgkinson in Madrid
As opinionated and forthright as ever, John McEnroe has attacked the All England Club for their decision not to award equal prize money to the men and women at the Wimbledon Championships.
advertisementMcEnroe, a three-time Wimbledon singles champion, said that a failure to pay women the same as men was sending out the wrong message to "society".
Wimbledon is the only one of the four grand slam events not to pay the same amount to its men's and women's champions, with Roger Federer earning £655,000 at this season's tournament, some £30,000 more than Amelie Mauresmo.
The Australian Open and the US Open, the more politically correct of the grand slams, pay the same amount to all men and women, while the French Open rewarded their men's and women's champions equally for the first time this season, although all other female competitors earned less than their male counterparts.
McEnroe strongly rejected one of the arguments put forward by the All England that men's matches are the best of five sets, while the women play over three sets, and therefore do not deserve parity of pay.
"I know people argue that the top women have easier matches in the same week, their matches don't last as long, and therefore they don't deserve to earn as much as men.
"I would probably have said the same thing when I was playing, but that isn't the point. I went to see the movie, King Kong, it was too long, being long didn't make it better.
"So I don't believe that argument about the matches being longer is relevant," McEnroe told the November issue of GQ magazine.
"This issue isn't whether men are better than women; it is sending a message of equality to society. I have four girls and two boys, and as a parent, I feel the example tennis is setting – with the exception of Wimbledon – is tremendous.
"It is saying that, unlike any other sport, we value women and their contribution as much as we do men. "I think that is terrific," the New Yorker said.
"In soccer, basketball, golf, any sport you care to name, women earn a fraction of what men earn. What sort of signal does that send to young people? That women aren't good enough, that they are not worth watching? I am proud of what tennis has done there. I just wish the All England Club would fall in line with everyone else."
McEnroe also spoke of his admiration for Andy Murray's will to win. "I don't know whether it's because he comes from Scotland and they always feel like the poor relations to England, or because of what happened to him when he was caught up in the Dunblane shootings, even though he was only on the periphery, but there is something in there he uses to motivate himself.
"He is chippy, he has a bit of anger, he has something burning inside and it drives him on. I like that about him, it's what gives him the strength to win," he said.
Here at this week's Madrid Masters, should Murray defeat a qualifier in the opening round he will then play Ivan Ljubicic, the Croatian world No 3, in round two, while fellow Briton, Tim Henman, a wild card, opens against Spain's Fernando Verdasco.